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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

Redistricting 101


Elections are the way we build the world we want to live in together: they’re the way we set the rules we set.  Most of the people we elect — in federal, state, and local government — are elected from districts, which divide a state and its people into geographical territories. In most of these districts, all of the people end up represented by the candidate who wins the most votes in the district. The way that people are grouped into districts has an enormous influence on who our representatives are, and what policies they fight for.

At least once per decade, these district lines are redrawn, block by block.  In most states, the legislative district lines are drawn by the legislators themselves — but in a few states, other bodies take over.  The way the lines are drawn can keep a community together or split it apart, leaving people without a representative who feels responsible for their concerns.  The way the lines are drawn can change who wins an election.  Ultimately, the way the lines are drawn can change who controls the legislature, and which laws get passed.

If you care about the economy, or the environment, or national security, or taxes, or criminal justice, or jobs, or civil liberties, or technology, or schools, or zoning … then you care about redistricting.

This is your guide.  A little owner’s manual, for we, the people.


is redistricting?

are the lines drawn?

draws the lines?

are the lines drawn?

can the public engage?

should we care?